You know how when you make calculated plans with a close knit of friends, you put in all the effort of googling out gazillion crazy things. Keeping in mind things like budget constraints swapping from one travel website to other pedantically scrutinising blog posts checking on the home stays or hotels you will end up in. Especially when its one you have never been before. A point comes where you burn out of your brain cells for the moment and decide to keep some of the research for later. It is exactly in this gap, life catches up and “The Trip” never happens. This was exactly how our trip did NOT manifest.
Yes, life caught up . Caught up and writhed our peace of mind so much that one flat out tired evening we just decided and went for it. Within a matter of four days tickets were booked, package quotes were flying around, customisation of hotels were made and all that was left was perpetual wait. A wait we yearned for so long which will now be etched in our head as a trip we call as “One for the books”. Big thanks to Travel Triangle.
I am more of a ‘beach life is the best life’ kind of person. My husband is the mountain lover and boy, did he get many of them and more to for his workaholic eyes to gorge on. Chandigarh-Manali-Kullu-Kasol-Shimla-Chandigarh. This was how the map was planned for us by our travel agents from Travel Triangle. It was a seven day long trip so this post is going to be a long and fun one. Lets dive in shall we?
Manali with its snow capped mountains majestically standing in the far distance of the commercial part of the little resort town was heavenly, glorious, magnificent, and ostentatious in a majestic way that the Gods really put on a serious effort into them. A stellar place we opted for to escape the horrendous humidity and mundane routine. The road trip via Chandigarh was the longest car journey I have ever sat through. It truly felt ceaseless, a whooping twelve hour road trip excluding the three hour flight from Banagalore to Chandigarh. First stay was at ‘Hotel Kings Land’ not a luxurious one, but one that will suffice when you want to invest money on other thrilling activities like para gliding and river rafting. We reached pretty late around 11.00 Pm but the hotel staff was kind enough to have some hot rotis, panner butter masala, dal tadka and jeera rice waiting for us in our suite. Fast forwarding, all of that, the enormity of Manali dawned in my head when I woke up at 5.45 am (the sun was out and pumping by then.) To view this. Neatly tucked amidst a lower valley like crevice was our hotel surrounded by these snow capped mountains. What a treat it was!!
So day one, we all got set and had decided to finish all the local places in Manali town. You see we designed our package with Travel Triangle that turned out fairly well. The first local place we visited was Hadimba Temple. There is such rich culture and deep rooted stories behind each place at least in various places in India and this was no different.
Centered in a Van Vihar which literally means ‘Forest Monastry’ , surrounded by a multitude of pine trees was Hadimba temple. Also known as ‘Hidimbi Devi Temple’. Belonging to the rakshas clan, Hidimbi Devi along with her brother Hidimb, a brave a fearless rakshas occupied this place not only as home but also as their meditation sanctuary. Hidimba vowed to marry one who would defeat her brother Hidimb. During the Pandava’s exile, when they visited Manali; Bhima, one of the five Pandavas, killed Hidimb. Thereafter, Hidimba married Bhima and gave birth to their son Ghatotkacha.
While roaming around Van Vihar I got a chance to experience the sartorial side of the locals. Dressing up as one of them was a fun thing to do.
Next stop was the Buddhist monastery. Contrary to the copper and bronze tone theme of Hadimba temple, this one was colourful, vibrant, ostentatious in all its glory. The kings, gods and saints depicted inside the temple were fierce, calm and portrayed a lot of richness. The main feature of the temple is the large statue of ‘Sakyamuni’, the historical Lord Buddha and beautiful wall paintings. The structure of the monastery is Pagoda style with yellow coloured top. A photographer’s delight.
At the center of the town is ‘Mall Road’, a string of shops of varied category stood like they are stitched next to each other. We were not keen on shopping as we had plans to utilize the money for activities so we spent some time jumping around there. Quite literally.
Next stop was the Vashist temple. At a distance of 3.5 km from Manali Bus Stand, Vashist Temple in Manali is dedicated to sage Vashisht, the Kula guru of Lord Rama in the village Vashisht across the River Beas. It is among the most famous places to visit in Manali. The village of Vashisht was named after Rishi Vashisht one of the seven sages of Hindu. According to the legend,
Rishi Vashisht was left depressed on finding out that his children had been killed by Vishwamitra. Rishi Vashisht tried to commit suicide by jumping into a river but the river refused to kill him. He then started a new life in the village here. The river which took the rishi to the village was named Vipasha, meaning freedom from bondage. The Vipasha River is now known as the Beas River.
The Vashisht temple is believed to be more than 4000 years old. Inside the temple there is a black stone image of the Rishi wearing dhoti. The Vashist temple is decorated with excellent and beautiful carvings on wood. The Vashisht Hot Water Spring is one of the famous attractions of this region. The hot springs is believed to have medicinal value. What we saw in reality there were four pipes extended from the hot springs used by the locals to wash vessels and in the spring itself men in Chaddis. Obviously none of it looked inviting or medicinal so we refrained from dipping in.
We ended our day in old Manali road, a little walk up an alley introduces you to the most trippy cafes, tattoo parlors shops that sold harem pants and Om printed bags sounds familiar? IT reminded me a lot of the little walk in Mahabalipuram or Goa. We did a little shopping there and headed to a cafe called ‘Rendezvous’ recommended by a friend. After the long walk to our dismay they were not functioning as they were just setting up for the season. But, considering the effort we put they decided to give four coffees on the house! We also enjoyed some sheesha as we tickled some old memories.
A quick one hour here and we were hungry entered the next sweet spot and might one that grew to be our favourite ‘The Lazy Dog’. Situated neatly next to the Beas river, Lazy Dog had a variety of food for the palette with their balanced and curated menu. Waiting for food listening to the gushing waters of Beas River is something you want to add to your list. Topping my meal with the Hot Gulab Jamuns in the 7 degree celsius weather, we headed to our hotel for some good rest as the next day demanded a lot of energy.
The morning before we left Manali we made sure we paid our respects to the Lord Shiva temple that was practically next door to the hotel.
Two hot aloo paranthas and an hour’s drive later we found ourself at the a certain spot of mt.Gulaba after which there is no path for vehicles. This obviously meant we had to trek! We were all ready with our gear as this place claimed to have snow. It is technically summer so rather than cover in snow it had pockets of snow. Of course the place was commercialized so the crowd was not less in number . We even had a lady that came from up above the mountains to us on our way during the climb asking us is we needed hot coffee or soup.
As a little bit of a daredevil myself, considering the fact I jumped of a cable car hanging in mid air. A 143m bungee jump back in 2014 in Queenstown, NZ. This was an interesting challenge. After a part of the climg you rally have to calculate you moves and path especially if you are not a frequent trekker but would like to feel the fire anyway.
The trek was indeed worth the pain in every muscle in the leg as you can see what it had for us.
A little piece of paradise indeed.
From Mt.Gulaba we headed to Solang valley, the valley of activities. They had a large number of people trying out paragliding. Part of the gang went ahead and did this while I chose not to. I had already done paragliding by the beach at Langkawi so refrained from doing ti again. Skiiing was another activity this place was famous for but unfortunately for us there wasn’t much snow and that idea ended there. Rohtang Pss (the place were song from ‘Jab we met’ was shot) had a major land slide and was closed for public safety.
We also visited Manu temple a little late in the night around 8.30 pm which is said to be built for the creator of life and writer of ‘Manusmriti’ . They say a visit to Manali is not complete if you do not visit this place. After a tiring day of trek we found our self back in our favorite little restaurant ‘The Lazy Dog ‘. The staff recognized us a as they nodded in acknowledgement.
We did not dedicate an entire day at Kullu, but on the way to our next destination we found a sweet spot for river rafting. This may be the best idea we had and it was worth every blood cell that froze. An initial smooth sail on the mighty river surrounded by the magnanimous mountains , the river showed us what she’s made off while the 2 degree Celsius water came in contact with our skin. I do not remember the last time something was this terrifying and enjoyable at the same time.
After walking out like numbed dolls we managed to change, grab a hot cup of tea to melt the frozen blood stream in our body and did some shopping. You can get vibrant ‘Pashmina’ shawls for family here as a souvenir.
KASOL AND MANIKARAN.
Kasol is certainly a place that you can dedicate your entire trip on its own. So connecting back to the “fairly good” comment I made about the agency was that we were all set to visit the more traditional places. The actual untapped beauty will be found in places like ‘Spit Valley’ and ‘Kheer Ganga’ which wil lrequire you to have a dedicated day in each of these places. The beauty is such. We did have our own little fin though. I will not disagree. We go to see the mighty parvathy valley and the river. My husband had tol me this little story about this place. Here, you can read it below.
‘It is believed that Shiva, the destroyer, meditated in the mystical Parvati Valley for about 3,000 years. He sat here in the form of a naked ash-smeared sanyasi or naga sadhu. Seasons would come and go, and one day he looked out at this untouched, perfectly sculpted landscape and named it after his consort, Parvati.’ – https://www.tripoto.com/trip/mysteries-of-parvati-valley-57c94ca48b185
Kasol is famous for multiple things. Among from that food we gorged on were, hot momos, amazing dessert from German bakeries and a wild view to stare at while we gulped it all.
Manikaran a famous pilgrimage spot for the famous gurudwara and its natural hot springs. One must visit this place to be amazed on now this little place that would hardly be as big as a high outside the city had an entire community living in itself. Home to Ram and Shiva temples with pillars made from beautifully carved wood and deities in white marbles. It is certainly worth spending some time for.
During their (Shiva and Parvati’s) stay in Parvati Valley, Goddess Parvati lost her mani (precious stone) in the waters of a stream. Upset over the loss, she asked Shiva to retrieve it. Shiva commanded his attendant to find the mani for Parvati.However, when he failed, Shiv flew into a rage and opened his third eye, which wrecked havoc and anarchy in the universe. An appeal was made before the serpent god, Sheshnag, to pacify Lord Shiva. Sheshnag hissed thereby giving rise to a flow of boiling water. The water spread over the entire area resulting in the emergence of precious stones of the type Goddess Parvati had lost. The name Manikaran is derived from this legend.
A little walk into that bridge you see there leads you to passages inside the building that will give way to a small community market. Culture and heritage all over the place people.
‘Chhlal’ or ‘Chalal’ is a small village that is a trek away from the main road on Kasol. A cross over a not so strong bridge built for the villagers over the beautiful Parvathy river this place is a paradise for the hippies and junkies.
Their natural wild plant which you can find all over the area is ‘You know what’ and the entire path you will find cafes with bob marley paintings and trippy designs.
After exploring the place a little bit we headed to ‘Freedom Cafe’. With bright red paint , screaming out trance music and yet hidden in an almost ‘you may miss it’ way freedom cafe was an experience hat I enjoyed as a new tourist. They do not have any traditional menu but work on providing you with what they have. Sticking to some hot mint tea and over looking the mountains is one of the top ten things you must do in Kasol.
Not so cold at this time of the year, Shimla also known as ‘Pahadon ki Rani’ was beautiful. Watching the entire lit mountain city as we drove to our hotel was a sight ti behold. The night we reached was already quite late so we decided to have heavy dinner as we were all starving and call it a night. The next morning the first site we visited was ‘Kufri’. Kufri, reminded me of ‘Ooty’. Busy roads crowded with vendors selling carrots, fruit chars, cotton candy all the text book hill station delicacies. The one thing tah twas different was to reach up to kufri , after drive to the common area you have to and can only go via horses. It is a steep and rocky mountain path which will require the help of this strong animal.
I would call Kufri extremely commercialized and not so special so if you skip this you aren’t going to lose anything.Next pit stop was the Jakhoo temple. The masters of this spot are none other than monkeys. They behave like thugs rather than observant animals on trees. From scratching your face to snatching your duppatta they are well-versed in it all. We were told not to hold anything flashy and to go empty handed and not cause or do anything that will attract attention as they can get pretty wild.
Jakhoo Temple, situated in Jakhoo hill which means, yes you guessed it ride a small uphill walk. I would like to believe I lost weight after this trip but the amount of aloo paranthas and butter chicken I had told a different story. Situated 8000 feet above sea level surrounded by the cal mountains and offering panoramic view of the ‘Shivalik Ranges’ stoo the 108 feet tall mighty “Hanuman” statue. According to legend,
One legend goes that Lord Hanuman stopped there to rest while he was searching for the Sanjivni Booti to revive Lakshmana in the Epic Ramayana.
We took a cable cart from Jakhoo hill straight down to mall road and went to ‘Cafe Simla’. Great food and even better view of mountain city we filled our famished self. The streets had small timer vendors filling up the place. One that attracted us was the arrangement of colourful fruits. I was stupid enough to not take picture of the arrangement but I did click a good one of what went inside my tummy. Cherries!!!
After this we called it a day and spend the night packing up, eating fruits drinking some nice wine and recollecting the beautiful memories made. I would like to call myself blessed to have viewed such spectacular heritage of our country at a very young age.
If you have made it till here, I would like to thank you for patiently reading it and would hope you enjoyed the little write up. I made it as short as possible also making sure I covered the parts that had to be mentioned. Please find below few details that may help you. Alos, please do let me know on what you thought about this travelogue.
Photography: Murali Krishna Varma
Travel Agent: Travel Triangle
Cost for 5 pax 7 days: 75,000 INR (Incl. food and stay)